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however, at this time, and without a respectful and friendly communication with the Powers interested in this navigation, to fix on the distance to which we may ultimately insist on the right of protection, the President gives instructions to the officers, acting under his authority, to consider those heretofore given them as restrained for the present to the distance of one sea-league, or three geographical miles from the sea shores. This distance can admit of no opposition, as it is recognised by treaties between some of the powers with whom we are connected in commerce and navigation, and is as little or less than is claimed by any of them on their own coasts.

Future occasions will be taken to enter into explanations with them, as to the ulterior extent to which we may reasonably carry our jurisdiction. For that of the rivers and bays of the United States, the laws of the several States are understood to have made provision, and they are, moreover, as being landlocked, within the body of the United States.

Examining, by this rule, the case of the British brig Fanny, taken on the 8th of May last, it appears from the evidence, that the capture was made four or five miles from the land, and consequently without the line provisionally adopted by the President, as before mentioned. I have the honour to be, &c.



No. 6.-1793, November 8: Letter from Mr. Jefferson (United States Secretary of State) to Mr. Hammond (British Minister at Philadelphia).

GERMANTOWN, Nov. 8, 1793.

SIR: The President of the United States thinking that before it shall be finally decided to what distance from our sea shores the territorial protection of the United States shall be exercised, it will be proper to enter into friendly conferences and explanations with the powers chiefly interested in the navigation of the seas on our coasts, and relying that convenient occasions may be taken for these hereafter, finds it necessary in the mean time, to fix provisionally on some distance for the present government of these questions. You are sensible that very different opinions and claims have been heretofore advanced on this subject. The greatest distance to which any respectable assent among nations has been at any time given, has been the extent of the human sight, estimated at upwards of 20 miles, and the smallest distance I believe, claimed by any nation whatever is the utmost range of a cannon ball, usually stated at one sea league. Some intermediate distances have also been insisted on, and that of three sea leagues has some authority in its favor. The character of our coast, remarkable in considerable parts of it for admitting no vessels of size to pass near the shores, would entitle us in reason to as broad a margin of protected navigation as any nation whatever. Reserving however the ultimate extent of this for future deliberation the President gives instructions to the officers acting under his authority to consider those heretofore given them as restrained for the present to the distance of one sea league or three geographical miles from the sea shores. This distance can admit of no opposition as it is recog

92909°-S. Doc. 870, 61-3, vol. 4—17

nized by treaties between some of the Powers with whom we are connected in commerce and navigation, and is as little or less than is claimed by any of them on their own coasts.

For the jurisdiction of the rivers and bays of the United States the laws of the several States are understood to have made provision, and they are moreover as being land locked, within the body of the United States.

Examining by this rule the case of the British brig Fanny, taken on the 8th of May last, it appears from the evidence that the capture was made four or five miles from the land, and consequently without the line provisionally adopted by the President as before mentioned.

I have the honor to be with sentiments of respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant (Signed)



No. 7.-1802; November 10: Letter from Mr. Leonard (Superintendent of Trade and Fisheries at Canso, N. S.), to Mr. Sullivan (Under Secretary of State).


SIR. I beg leave to request you will inform the Right Honorable Lord Hobart that on the 19th of May last, I received an Official Letter from His Excellency Sir John Wentworth, Governor of Nova Scotia, recommending the cruizing of the "Union" in the Bay of Fundy and the shores near the entrance, where the principal part of the contraband trade has been carried on within the District, and where the American vessels who have hitherto refused to comply with the regulations of the Ports in that quarter, generally resort, and as the "Lilly" Sloop of War was at the request of Sir John Wentworth stationed for the season on the eastern part of Nova Scotia for the same purposes, and the "Pheasant" Sloop of War guarded the Coast from Halifax to the Bay of Passamaquady, I immediately complied with his Excellency's direction, and I have the satisfaction to inform his Lordship that our endeavours to prevent illicit trade, and to enforce a submission to the regulations of the Acts of Assembly of Nova Scotia, have in a great measure been successful, as an American vessel is seldom seen near the shores, and those that do appear come merely for the purpose of fishing agreeably to the treaty of 1783, whereas previous to the establishment of the Union frequent disputes took place between His Majesty's subjects and those of the United States of America respecting the right of Fishery in the Bays and Harbours to the great injury of the former and benefit of the latter; that such has been the benefit of the establishment, I have reason to think from the present disposition of the people of these provinces that the House of Assembly will by a grant enable me to make her usefulness more extensive than can be done by the sum allotted by parliament.

I further beg leave to suggest to you for his Lordship's consideration, that it would be beneficial to the interests of His Majesty's subjects in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick


if an Act of Parliament should pass preventing the landing of Plaister of Paris northward and eastward of Boston, from British vessels as that article has become valuable in the Southern States for the production of grain and grass, and cannot be procured in any part of America, but in His Majesty's provinces; British vessels would then have the sole benefit of carrying it to the place of consumption and it would furnish a good nursery for seamen of his Majesty's ships of war, at present most of this advantage is enjoyed by American subjects as it is principally brought from the mines by small vessels owned in Nova Scotia and this Province and landed at the boundary line in the Bay of Passamaquady about 40 leagues from the mines; it is there re-shipped in American vessels: and conveyed to the place of consumption, to the great injury of our carrying trade, as these Provinces can furnish any quantity of shipping necessary to supply the whole United States with that article. It would also remove the pretence for illegal traffick which has been hitherto carried on by American vessels at the Boundary line who came under pretence of loading plaister of Paris, with contraband Articles on board which were clandestinely shipped in the small British vessels belonging to the small harbours and creeks in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, who can easily elude the vigilance of cruizers, or officers of the Customs, to the great injury of the Revenue and fair trader. As no laws in the Colonies can be made to counteract this evil, I humbly conceive it must be by Act of Parliament.

I have the honour to be with the greatest respect your most obedient Humble Servant

GEO: LEONARD Supert. Trade and Fishery.

Under Secretary of State, &c &c &c.

No. 8.-1804, January 5: Extract from Letter from Mr. Madison (Secretary of State), to Mr. James Monroe.



2d. The British pretentions to domain over the narrow seas are so absolute, and so indefensible, that they never would have occurred as a probable objection in this case, if they had not actually frustrated an arrangement settled by Mr. King with the British Ministry on the subject of impressments from American vessels on the high seas. At the moment when the articles were expected to be signed, an exception of the "narrow seas" was urged and insisted on by Lord St. Vincent; and being utterly inadmissible on our part, the negotiation was abandoned.

The objection in itself has certainly not the slightest foundation. The time has been, indeed, when England not only claimed but exercised pretensions scarcely inferior to full sovereignty over the seas surrounding the British Isles, and even as far as Cape Finesterre to the south, and Van Staten in Norway to the north. It was a time, however, when reason had little share in determining the law, and the intercourse of nations, when power alone decided questions of rights,

and when the ignorance and want of concert among other maritime countries facilitated such an usurpation.

The progress of civilisation and information has produced a change in all those respects; and no principle in the code of public law is at present better established than the common freedom of the seas beyond a very limited distance from the territories washed by them. This distance is not, indeed, fixed with absolute precision. It is varied in a small degree by written authorities, and perhaps it may be reasonably varied in some degree by local peculiarities. But the greatest distance which would now be listened to anywhere would make a small proportion of the narrowest part of the narrowest seas in question.

What are, in fact, the prerogatives claimed and exercised by Great Britain over these seas? If they were really a part of her domain, her authority would be the same there as within her other domain. Foreign vessels would be subject to all the laws and regulations framed for them, as much as if they were within the harbours or rivers of the country. Nothing of this sort is pretended. Nothing of this sort would be tolerated. The only instances in which these seas are distinguished from other seas, or in which Great Britain enjoys within them any distinction over other nations are, first, the compliment paid by other flags to hers; secondly, the extension of her territorial jurisdiction in certain cases to the distance of four leagues from the coast. The first is a relic of ancient usurpation, which has thus long escaped the correction, which modern and more enlightened times have applied to other usurpations. The prerogative has been often contested, however, even at the expense of bloody wars, and is still borne with ill will and impatience by her neighbours. At the last treaty of peace at Amiens the abolition of it was repeatedly and strongly pressed by France; and it is not improbable, that at no remote day it will follow the fate of the title of "King of France" so long worn by the British monarchs, and at length so properly sacrificed to the lessons of a magnanimous wisdom. As far as this homage to the British flag has any foundation at present, it rests merely on long usage and long acquiescence, which are construed, as in a few other cases of maritime claims, into the effect of a general, though tacit convention. The second instance is the extension of the territorial jurisdiction to four leagues from the shore. This, too, as far as the distance may exceed that which is generally allowed, rests on a like foundation, strengthened, perhaps, by the local facility of smuggling, and the peculiar interest which Great Britain has in preventing a practice affecting so deeply her whole system of revenue, commerce, and manufactures: whilst the limitation itself to four leagues necessarily implies that beyond that distance no territorial jurisdiction is assumed.


But, whatever may be the origin or the value of these prerogatives over foreign flags in one case, and within a limited portion of these seas in another, it is obvious that neither of them will be violated by the exemption of American vessels from impressments, which are nowise connected with either; having never been made on the pretext either of withholding the wonted homage to the British flag, or of smuggling in defiance of British laws.

This extension of the British law to four leagues from the shore is inferred from an Act of Parliament, passed in the year 1736, (9

Geo. 2, c. 35,) the terms of which comprehend all vessels foreign as well as British; it is possible, however, that the former are constructively excepted. Should your inquiries ascertain this to be the case, you will find yourself on better ground than the concession here made.


From every view of the subject, it is reasonable to expect, that the exception of the narrow seas from the stipulation against impressments, will not be inflexibly maintained: should it be so, your negotiation will be at an end. The truth is, that so great a proportion of our trade, direct and circuitous, passes through those channels, and such is its peculiar exposure in them to the wrong practised, that, with such an exception, any remedy would be very partial. And we can never consent to purchase a partial remedy by confirming a general evil, and by subjecting ourselves to our own reproaches as well as to those of other nations.

No. 9.-1804, September 8: Extract from Letter from Mr. Jefferson (President of the United States), to the Secretary of the Treasury.

MONTICELLO, September 8, 1804.



DEAR SIR, AS we shall have to lay before Congress the proceedings of the British vessels at New York, it will be necessary for us to say to them with certainty which specific aggressions were committed within the common law, which within the admiralty jurisdiction, and which on the high seas. The rule of the common law is that wherever you can see from land to land, all the water within the line of sight is in the body of the adjacent country and within common law jurisdiction. Thus, if in this curvature you can see from a to b, all the water within the line of sight is within common law jurisdiction, and a murder committed at c is to be tried as at common law. Our coast is generally visible, I believe, by the time within about twenty-five miles. I suppose that at New York you must be some miles out of the Hook before the opposite shores recede twenty-five miles from each other. The three miles of maritime jurisdiction is always to be counted from this line of sight. It will be necessary we should be furnished with the most accurate chart to be had of those shores and waters in the neighborhood of the Hook; and that we may be able to ascertain on it the spot of every aggression.

No. 10.-1805, November 30: Extract from Memoirs of Mr. John Quincy Adams.

Washington, November 30th.-Paid visits this morning to the President, whom I found at home, and the Secretaries of State and

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